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Bladesline Blog

It's a hockey night in Southwest Florida...

Goalie candidates emerge

David Shantz

One of the bigger pieces of news this offseason was the departure of long time netminder Craig Kowalski.

K-Wol, as he's affectionately known to Everblades fans, did not have his contract renewed by the Carolina Hurricanes. A free agent, he signed with the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators for the 2007-08 season.

The Everblades are now awaiting the assignment of their netminders from their parent organizations. A June article in the Albany Union-Times indicates that Michael Leighton and Justin Peters are the likely tandum for the Hurricane's AHL affiliate in Albany. That would leave Kevin Nastiuk to man the Everblades net, but...the same article reports that goalie Daniel Manzato is also in the mix, although at the time he had not signed a contract.

A 23 year old native of Sandeyeus, Switzerland, Manzato played 3 years of Junior Major hockey with Victoriaville, but has otherwise played exclusively in the Swiss Leagues. He was the Twins 5th round draft pick in 2002. Magnus Akerlund is also in the Canes system, their 5th round draft pick in 2004. Another Swedish native, the 21 year old has played exclusively in Sweden. It's a good chance that neither are going to hop at a chance to play North American hockey in the ECHL, which would leave the Blades with Nastiuk, who is no stranger to the local fans.

Nastiuk posted a 2.54 GAA in 32 game with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL last season, picking up a 16-8-6 record along the way and making 4 appearances in the post season. He was not on the Wranglers protected list for the 2007-08 season, which means they have not retained their rights to him.

On the Panthers side of things, David Shantz has a chance to return as well. He is currently competing with Tyler Plante for the 3 string goalie position, behind Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson.

Both are butterfly style goalies, nauseatingly polite, and have handshakes that could crack walnuts. One difference, Panthers goalie coach Pierre Groulx says, is that Plante is more vocal, and doesn’t hide his emotions. While Shantz, who is somewhat of a leader in the rookie locker room, is more introverted.

Plante, who signed his first contract with the team in May, will get his first taste of pro action this fall. The next few weeks will decided who is with the Cats’ AHL in Rochester, and who is in Naples with the Everblades.

"They both have the potential to be very, very good goalies," Groulx said in an article on the Florida Panthers website. "They just have to keep working hard and stay focused."

The Panthers took only one victory in the recent 4-game rookie tournament in Kitchner, defeating the Ottawa Senators' rookies, 2-1. Tyler Plante worked the net for that game, while the Cat's rookies lost to the Penguins and the Leafs. Shantz worked both those games and absorbed the loss in net.

K-Wol's leadership will certainly be missed by the Blades, but fans should still get excited by the young talent that will be coming to the Florida Everblades ice this fall.

The Panthers open their 10th Anniversary Season at home on October 19th against the Mississippi Sea Wolves. Season and individual game tickets are now on sale, so don't be left out in the sun when the cold wave hits Southwest Florida next month!

On a side note, former Everblade left wing Kevin Estrada was also released the the Hurricanes. Estrada appeared in 7 games with the Blades in the 2005-06 season record 1 goal and 5 assists, and 3 games in the 2006-07 season, recording 1 goal and 1 assist. He made 8 playoff appearances for the blades in the 2005-06 season netting one goal and assisting on 4 others.

2007-09-11 16:51:32 GMT
Next Game

Who: Mississippi Seawoves at Florida Everblades
When: Fri. Oct. 19, 2007, 7:30 PM
Where: Germain Arena
TV: None
Radio: None
Web site:

Individual & Season Tickets are on sale now!

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